1957 November 16

Catholic Bishops Adopt Plan to Fight Obscenity


At their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the Catholic Bishops voted on this day to initiate a campaign to fight obscenity in books and other forms of expression. The Bishops expressed approval of the recent Supreme Court decision on obscenity, Roth v. United States, decided on June 24, 1957, which ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

In the years ahead, as the Supreme Court wrestled with how to apply Roth to particular cases, it steadily expanded First Amendment protection to sexually oriented books and films. See, for example, the Court’s decision holding Henry Millere’s famous novel Tropic of Cancer not obscene on June 22, 1964, and also Jacobellis v. Ohio, on the same day, June 22, 1964, holding the film The Lovers not obscene.

Learn more about the history of the Catholic Church and censorship: Frank Walsh, Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry (1996)

Learn more about the anti-censorship campaign in the 1950s and 1960s: Charles Rembar, The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill (1968)

Learn more at the American Bookseller Foundation for Free Expression: http://www.abffe.org/

And more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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